Oil Leak Causes & How to Fix Them
There can be many causes of an oil leak and therefore different oil leak repair to fix it. But, we'll try and simplify an oil leak problem and give you a quick fix for a minor oil leak you can perform right from home.
Should you ignore an obvious oil leak? Do you notice a puddle of oil beneath your vehicle that wasn't there before? Or worse yet, is there a distinct burnt oil smell coming from your engine? If you answered yes to any of the above, read on for a simple solution to try before all else.
Repairing an oil leak should never be delayed. If your engine oil, transmission oil, brake fluid or any other engine fluids have a leak in the system, you could be losing precious lubricant that keeps your vehicles parts running smoothly. Hiring a mechanic to diagnose an engine oil leak may be necessary. Otherwise, a little examining of your own vehicle can expose where a leak is coming from. Either way, don't put off an oil leak repair, it could cost you an engine.
Is Your Car Leaking Oil?
Uninspected leaks can prematurely damage rubber engine hoses and seals. Engine leaks can leave oil stains on your driveway and become a city by law hazard. To top off, an oil leak coming from your engine bay poses a fire hazard and lead to an all out engine failure. So, an oil leak repair should be top priority if you notice an oil leaking anywhere from your vehicle.
First place to check for oil leaks is underneath your car.
If present, check the color of the liquid. If red it’s probably transmission fluid. If green or orange and has a sweet smell, coolant is leaking. If brown, it's likely an engine oil leak. If you notice a few drops in the same spot accumalating, chances are a leak has developed. If so, you'll want to check your oil dipstick for the oil level. Make sure it is between the minimum and maximum area of the dipstick. Depending on the color of oil leaking, checking your brake fluid, transmission oil and engine coolant levels is also a good idea. If any of the oil levels is below the required amount, you’re leaking oil some where.
Another way to check for internal oil leaks is have someone observe your exhaust tail pipe while driving. If blue smoke exits the tailpipe, oil might be leaking into the engine itself.
Another possibility of an oil leak is after a drive, smell around the vehicle for a burnt oil smell. If a burnt oil odor is present, it's possibly oil leaking onto heated engine components.
What Causes Engine Oil Leaks?
So, what causes engine oil leaks? Great question! The major culprit in oil leaks is worn gaskets and seals. Checking beneath the vehicle for oil pan seals and wear can be difficult without a hoist. But if possible, checking the oil pan gasket and oil pan drain plug will eliminate those to engine oil leak areas.
Another possibility is oil leaking from the timing cover seal and valve cover gaskets. This can be inspected usually from the top of the engine bay with the hood open. These tyoes of leaks involve timely labor but can be repaired by replacing the gaskets.
However, we did say we would provide a simple solution to correcting an oil leak. This one is not difficult and could be tried first before performing an oil leak repair at the local garage. Below are a few options to try.
Oil Leak DIY Repair
The best method and most cost-effective to attempt fixing a oil leak DIY style is using a stop leak additive to stop engine oil leaks. Stop leak additives soften and condition rubber seals to stop engine oil leaks. Whether the leak is new or been leaking for a while, trying a stop leak additive can be an effective solution.
Another option to try is checking for loose nuts and bolts around the oil pan and drain plug. Engine vibration can cause loosening of engine bolts and nuts over time. Checking the tightness of bolts around the oil pan, valve covers and timing belt cover is a good start. When tightening, each bolt should be torqued to the right tightness and tightened in a criss-cross pattern. Your dealer or owners manual should be able to provide these specs.
Whatever may be causing the leak, these options above might just be what is needed to stop the oil leak. Don't delay. These options can be implemented simply and potentially be the end of your leaking oil.
Understanding engine oil leak causes, where to look for them and how to attempt fixing the leak yourself may be the solution provided. Protect your engine and components and keep your vehicle on the road where it’s meant to be.
Oil Leak Repair FAQ's
How much is an oil leak repair?
How much is an oil leak repair depends on the repair itself. Using a stop leak additive can be as little as $20. Will it work is another question. This also depends on the type of oil leak, the extent of the leak and the source (or sources) of the leak itself.
Can I drive with an oil leak?
Short commutes, less than 10 miles, have less of a chance to lower your oil level to a dangerous point before you check your oil again. If you sit in stop and go traffic for 2 hours every morning, your oil level might be dangerously low in just a few days. Also, many oil leaks will increase their flow rate as your engine gets warm and heat soaked so longer commutes can increase oil loss. Lastly, those of us that drive shorter distances in stop and go traffic should get our oil changed more often due to the severe driving conditions so the level is being topped off more often.
Where is my oil leaking from?
Oil leak location matters for both fast and slow leaks. For instance, a valve cover gasket leak may spread oil onto your exhaust manifold which when at high temperature will cause smoke or even a fire. A timing cover leak will allow oil to get on your timing belt or engine drive belts shortening their life and effectiveness. A rear main seal leak shouldn't risk any other components.
How bad is my oil leak?
Oil leaking? How big a deal is that? You'll notice oil spills and stains at just about every parking spot you come across. An oil leak is not as important as your oil level. If the oil is leaking at a fast rate, you are losing oil which is critical to your engines and components life. It's much more cost effective to repair an oil leak than replace an engine or transmission. If you see a leak, ensure your fluids are at the right level.
Does stop leak work?
Stop-leak additives work temporarily by absorbing into and expanding the seals, bringing them them to their original shape. While some formulas are better than others, it's only a temporary fix. The leaking seal will at some point need replacing.
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